Lurking Tapeworm Larvae Inside Australian Woman's Brain Cause Unusual Headaches

The cases of neurocysticercosis are very common in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, but how the 25-year-old woman got this disease is still a mystery

A 25-year-old Australian woman went to a hospital after she experienced headaches for weeks and was shocked to found that she has tapeworm larvae lurking in her brain. As per a report, it is a very unusual case, as the woman has no risk factors for the condition and the first "locally acquired" case of the disease.

The woman had experienced headaches earlier also, as she had migraines with visual "auras" since the age of 18 on a regular basis. But this time the experience was different. She tried painkillers to feel better but she continued to have the same pain and soon she began having blurry visions.

Woman suffered from very unusual headache Pexels

A Cyst in the Brain

According to the report, recently published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, after she did an MRI scan, doctors found a single brain lesion and they suspected that it was either a brain abscess or a tumor. Later, when the woman underwent an operation, doctors found a cyst, which was not made of human tissue, as it contained tapeworm larvae.

She was then diagnosed with neurocysticercosis—which is the most common parasitic disease of the nervous system in the developing nations and is the main cause of acquired epilepsy. This condition occurs after the accidental ingestion of eggs of Taenia solium, which is a pork tapeworm, due to contamination of food by people with taeniasis.

Pork Tapeworm REUTERS

Such cases are very common in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, but the 25-year-old woman's case is the first in Australia. Previously similar cases found in Oceania country have been among people who either immigrated or traveled to areas where the disease is endemic before coming back to Australia.

However, it is still unknown how the Australian woman had caught the disease as she was born in the Oceania country and never traveled overseas. Experts said that people can get the disease from close contact with a pork tapeworm infected person. As the woman did work at a barista, the report authors suspected that she has been most probably exposed during the job. Even if she got the disease while working at a public place, it would be a very rare event, said the authors.

However, her case is very similar to a New York woman's case—Rachel Palma—who was diagnosed with neurocysticercosis in 2019 without having any risk factors.